Boys’ Haven showed its appreciation for supporters Saturday, Nov. 10, at the facility’s outdoor pavilion with a musical celebration, motivational presentation and exposition of great feats of strength from Team Intense of Intense Ministries. Foster children from a number of area facilities including Buckner Children and Family Services in Beaumont joined the Boys’ Haven group. Boys’ Haven CEO Tony Castillo said the event was meant to honor both the children and supporters, or HavenKeepers.
“This is an appreciation for HavenKeepers and for the children, a celebration that they are trying to better their lives,” Castillo said.
Boys’ Haven is a nonprofit institution licensed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The organization is funded through a combination of state funding, the United Way, grants and individual donors. HavenKeepers is its community outreach program utilized to enlist monthly, quarterly or annual contributions from individuals and the business community.
“We provide therapeutic residential services for kids with a history of abuse, neglect and dysfunction in families,” Castillo said of Boys’ Haven. “Some kids are at the facility for aggressive behavior or a lack of motivation. The majority of these kiddos have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect. HavenKeepers provide support year-round through monetary and voluntary donations.”
“HavenKeepers are the people that donate money and contribute to Boys’ Haven,” said Connie Nugent, secretary at Boys’ Haven. “Their continued support keeps Boys’ Haven running. We want to thank these individuals who contribute to Boys’ Haven.”
Castillo said there are a lot of fairs and festivals during this time of year, and many of the children in foster care or living at facilities like Boys’ Haven do not get to go to or participate in those events.
“I don’t know of any other place in Southeast Texas that does this for foster kids,” Castillo asserted in reference to Saturday’s show. “We are hoping to have a couple hundred kids here. They, as much as anybody, deserve something like this just for them … to let them enjoy what ‘normal kids’ get to on a regular basis.”
David Leger of One Day of Praise Ministries organized the show and got together the bands and Team Intense to entertain and motivate the group. The event kicked off with Christian band Zion Road. Ramon Canizales, guitarist and lead singer for the band, said he and his group volunteered to play for the event because he wants to share his gift and message.
“It’s for a good cause,” Canizales said. “The main reason we are doing this is that God has given us a gift. We want to share that gift and praise God through music. We love it.”
Saul Candanoza, Christian rapper and co-pastor of New Life Assembly of God in Mexia, Texas, said he was happy to participate in the show because he wants to share a positive message with the kids there.
“I go to juvenile detention centers, prisons and group homes to share the message of God’s love,” Candanoza said. “I can relate to these kids. I was on drugs at 13 years old. I was rejected by my friends and family. Teachers told me I would never amount to anything. These kids are special. They do mean something. They may be left alone, but they can’t quit or give up. They are special in God’s eyes. I was 28 before I found out I was worth something. I want to tell these kids they can do great things.”
Team Intense, comprised of Ken Etta, Mike Fontenot and Alan Stringer, performed feats of strength and spoke to the crowd about Jesus. “Big Mike” told his story to the youth.
“I spent many years in prison,” Fontenot said. “I never knew who Jesus was. … I went to the chaplain at the prison. I was down on my knees and he asked me if I knew Jesus. I said, ‘Who is that?’”
Fontenot said the chaplain encouraged him to accept Jesus, and that is what turned his life around. He said he is now a happily married father, and he told the kids they could also achieve their dreams.
“None of these feats can change your life,” Etta said to the rapt audience. “The one who can change your life is a man named Jesus.”
Etta, who has 22-inch biceps, bent rebar with his bare hands at the event and tore license plates in half, throwing them up in the air after. Fontenot squeezed a frying pan into a taco shape to impress the kids. Stringer tore through a phone book and then doused those gathered with diet 7-Up by ripping the cans in half and making them explode into the air. Children ran from him as the spray of soda rained down.
“Say ‘I never give up,’” Etta shouted to the kids. “Say ‘I never let go of my dreams.’”
Edward Schlaefi and his band God Only Knows played for the kids after Team Intense finished its act. Schlaefi said he wanted to be a good influence on the children.
“We are trying to be positive,” Schlaefi said. “This show is awesome. There needs to be more of this. When I was growing up, they had shows like this at the park or other places. This is a great thing and a great way to keep the kids involved.”
Attendees of the festival were treated to hot dogs, snow cones, popcorn and beverages provided by Northpoint Community Church in Beaumont. Lead pastors Chris and Lynnlee Moser assisted at the event.
“We are a brand new church,” said Chris. “We were looking for ways to serve the community. We have worked closely with Boys’ Haven since moving here a year ago. I think it is a good idea to bring these kids together who need to feel loved.”
“For these kids to know this community is behind them is so important,” Lynnlee said. “That’s what it is all about. We are excited to be able to serve the community and invest in our community.”
Castillo handed out door prizes during the event including a skateboard, football and an iPod. The kids ate, danced and talked. Castillo said many of the youth knew one another from other facilities or events. He said the show gave them the opportunity to reconnect with each other and encouraged camaraderie. He said he hopes to have events like this in the future to encourage the kids and show appreciation for the HavenKeepers. According to Castillo, the event made the kids happy, and that makes him happy.